We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Malcolm Martineau and Dorothea Röschmann

Dear Readers!  Picture your tireless reviewer sitting in Zankel Hall, or at least corporeally, but emotionally in a very private world with Ms. Röschmann and Mr. Martineau, virtually oblivious to the rest of the audience.  Did every audience member feel that way?  We have only the word of our companion who felt similarly transported.

It is rare for lieder to bring those pearly dewdrops to our eyes, especially lieder we have heard many times before with no equivalent effect; yet when we heard this artistic partnership perform Schubert's Mignon songs we gained an expanded emotional connection to Goethe's text, taken from his bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.

Since Goethe never acknowledged receipt of these settings, we cannot tell if he was similarly moved or even appreciated what Schubert's genius added.  We do know that "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt" evoked floods of memories and a mirrored emotional response.  For our companion, it was a different song that grabbed the heart.

Schubert wrote and rewrote these songs, achieving a perfection that was matched by the performance of soprano Dorothea Röschmann and pianist Malcolm Martineau. These two artists so perfectly matched each other in phrasing, dynamics, and style that they seemed like two aspects of the same artist.

Ms. Röschmann's presence is unfussy. She seemed to be a conduit or channel into the mind of Goethe and the heart of Schumann. The exceptional quality of her instrument is, well, selbstverständlich, and always used in the service of the material. We saw several young singers in the audience and hope they took the evening as a lesson in how to give a lieder recital.

Mr. Martineau is a collaborative pianist of the highest order. He manages to bring the singer front and center without fading into the background. His gifted fingers brought out every reference to nature and every emotion.

We also love Mahler's Rückert Lieder and enjoyed the way Ms. Röschmann filled "Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder" with her own personality, by means of physical gesture. What she does in terms of word coloration is remarkable. She seemed to be enjoying the taste of the language, something we also feel when we speak in German. Es ist eine leckere Sprache.

We were particularly drawn to the romantic sentiment of "Ich atmet' einen linden Duft" and the passionate "Liebst du um Schönheit", on which Mahler lavished his most tuneful melodies.

Richard Wagner set poetry written by his lady love Mathilde Wesendonck at the height of their love affair whilst he was composing his opera Tristan und Isolde. We are not in a position to evaluate the worth of her poetry but we can say that we personally love the imagery, the symbolism, and the way it rhymes and scans. It is just the kind of text that gives a composer the opportunity to write beautiful music and Wagner certainly did so.

We were not nearly so taken with Schumann's last song cycle Gedichte der Königen Maria Stuart. This was purported to have been written by Mary Queen of Scots in French and translated into German by Gisbert von Vincke. And therein lies the problem, as we see it. The text seemed clumsy and the rhymes often forced. Missing is Schumann's lavish piano score. Perhaps we might enjoy it after several more hearings but last night it paled in comparison with the rest of the program.

The three encores seemed like generous gifts that arrive after the party ends. They were three in number.  First was Liszt's "Es muss ein wunderbares sein" a paean to love that was well suited to the night before Valentine's Day.  The second was Schumann's "Die Lotosblume ängstigt" in which Heinrich Heine's text describes the lotus flower's love for the moon. Now this is the romantic Schumann we know and love!

The audience clamored for more and we were gifted with a third encore--Hugo Wolf's "In der Fruhe" which is not about love but about nocturnal anxiety giving way to the optimism of the rising of the sun. Möricke's text was well matched by Wolf's music and we left Zankel Hall feeling uplifted and more satisfied than we are usually. A great recital will do that for you!

(c) meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment